The following is ARCH's reply to Minister Shane Rattenbury’s response to the Open Letter Concerning the Killing of Kangaroos in the A.C.T. as described in a recent story by The Canberra Times.
Minister Shane Rattenbury continues to adopt defensive and misleading rhetoric to justify the highly unethical and scientifically unsubstantiated killing of the kangaroos on designated sites, precluding open and honest discussions that could potentially lead to a resolution of the controversial issue in question.
The signatories of the Open Letter and others opposing the annual mass killing of kangaroos by the A.C.T. Government are well aware of the ecological damage induced by human material and population expansion, as well as of the need to protect vulnerable species. In recognition of past and continuing human culpability for habitat destruction and species extinction, they also have the sensitivity and sensibility to demand that sustainable and nonlethal solutions be adopted to address ecological imbalances in places where such imbalances can be demonstrated.
Relentless repetition of a statement does not make that statement more valid. Contrary to Mr Rattenbury’s claims, there is no clear evidence indicating kangaroo overpopulation. There is no evidence of kangaroos negatively impacting on threatened species: in fact, the Government’s senior ecologist Dr Donald Fletcher himself admitted this during the 2013 ACAT hearing. There is no evidence for the correlation between high biomass and high biodiversity as advertised by the A.C.T.
There is no foundation for continuing to operate with the term “carrying capacity”, as Mr Rattenbury is doing, regardless of how good and authoritative it may sound: even the highly controversial review of the Kangaroo Management Plan, commissioned by the A.C.T. Government, warns against the use of the term “carrying capacity” to refer to its desired number of kangaroos per units of land, and suggests that the term “target density” be employed instead, reminding that field evidence to validate the A.C.T. Government’s target density is unavailable. The same review, which supports the killing as may perhaps be expected from reviewers whose speciality is “pest” and invasive species control, recognises the lack of transparency of what Mr Rattenbury calls “recognised scientific methods” of counting kangaroos and estimating population growth.
The scientific matters of concern were discussed in some detail during the 2013 and 2014 ACAT hearings. The Tribunal is not equipped with adequate expertise to evaluate the disputed science and the quality of the evidence presented. Nevertheless, the Tribunal itself recognised the lack of transparency of the A.C.T. Government’s methodologies, and advised it to adopt correctional measures, emphasising the need for independent evaluations of the program and conduct.
The general public is not equipped with the necessary knowledge to judge all aspects of the disputed science either. Hence it has to be able to trust the Government “to do the right thing.” Killing is certainly not the right thing to do. The choice to kill is a reflection of a culture of violence and a tradition of managerial laziness, and these things cause serious concern. The Government is accountable to the people for its decisions and actions. The scientifically and ethically supported criticism of the A.C.T. Government’s current practices and rhetoric in relation to the kangaroo management plan comes from various circles – including, and particularly, experts in the relevant fields. It compels the Government to halt the killings immediately and take appropriate steps to ensure valid scientific and ethical conduct. The A.C.T. Government’s credibility in this regard can only be (re-)established if the Government opens its doors and files, ensuring transparency and demonstrating a genuine will to act in the best interest of all species, great and small, including the kangaroos.
Mr Rattenbury is welcome to engage in further PR exercises and to repackage his myths over and over again, but that will not change the fact that the current conduct is unethical, scientifically unsubstantiated and unsustainable in the long run. We call for an immediate cessation of the killing of these native animals, and for a full and truly independent examination of relevant matters by respected professionals.
Teja Brooks Pribac
The Alliance for Respectful Co-Habitation